Play Therapy, More Important Than Ever!

As a play therapist, I know how important unstructured play is. In fact, I believe it is one of the most important things a child can do to learn and understand their environment. Play is so vital in a child’s development that "the experience of play changes the connections of the neurons at the front end of your brain," according to Sergio Pellisa researcher at the University of Lethbridge in Alberta, Canada. Pellisa goes on to say that "…without play experience, those neurons aren't changed.” Further, research has consistently shown that play is vital in many other areas as well. Specifically, play can increase language development (Fisher, 1999), promote problem-solving skills (Pepler and Ross, 1981), and increase self-regulation (Lillard et al, 2013). Knowing how vital play is, it is not surprising that with the decline of natural play there has been an increase in psychopathology in children and adolescents (Gray, 2011). Counselors have witnessed a trend of an increase in behavioral problems, self-regulation difficulties, problems with mood, and an increase in anxiety with the decline of natural play. It can seem shocking that recess is being cut, free play is being substituted for structured activities, and screen time is on the rise with all the evidence of the benefits of play! Subsequently, it is not surprising that play therapy is more important than ever to help with emotional regulation, build self-confidence, assist with behavioral regulation, improve mood, and decrease anxiety.

Because play therapists are aware of all the benefits of play, we use play to help children express their emotions. The trusting and positive relationship that develops between counselor and child during play therapy sessions, provides a safe emotional experience necessary for healing. Through play, therapists can help children learn more beneficial behaviors, understand their emotions, and gain insight about resolving inner conflicts. Through play therapy, children also learn self-control, self-respect, to express their emotions, increase problem solving skills, improve communication skills, and increase problem solving skills.

Written by: Amy Rollo, M.A., LSSP, LPC-S

Amy Rollo is a Licensed Professional Counselor Supervisor and owner of Heights Family Counseling. Amy has been practicing for fifteen years. She has doctoral level training in the areas of child and adolescent counseling, marriage and family therapy, and adult counseling. Amy Rollo provides counseling and evaluation services in the Houston Heights and surrounding areas. Amy’s goal in counseling is to journey with her clients in order to foster positive changes and growth in their lives. Read more about Amy's counseling style by visiting